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Exhibition Not an Ostrich: & Other Images from America's Library

Detroit Publishing Co.

Founded in the 1890s, the Detroit Publishing Company became one of the major photography publishers in the world. Decades before there was economically feasible color film stock, the company acquired exclusive North American rights to use a photographic process called Photochrom to convert black-and-white photographs into color images. This allowed the company to mass produce and widely distribute color postcards and prints.

The company specialized in American and European subjects, including cityscapes and architecture of historical note, such as Trinity Church in New York and Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Among the natural landmarks the firm photographed are Niagara Falls (in both a fluid and frozen state), Umbrella Rock on Lookout Mountain in Tennessee, and Balanced Rock in the Garden of the Gods, Colorado.

The corporation’s professional photographers recorded events and scenes that tourists would want to send home as well as daily sights, such as laundry drying on lines between apartments in New York. The Library of Congress holds more than 25,000 glass negatives and transparencies as well as 20,000 photographic and photomechanical prints, including about 300 color photolithograph prints published by the Detroit Publishing Company.